Cooley Law Can't Hide ABA Accreditation Problems

By George Khoury, Esq. on December 19, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley School of Law's lawsuit against the ABA is not going so well for the school. It recently lost a request for a preliminary injunction against the ABA, demanding that the ABA remove this letter from the internet and public domain.

That letter is at the very heart of the lawsuit. Cooley Law School alleges that the publishing of that letter violates the Higher Education Act as well as due process. The school claims that the letter harmed its reputation and influenced prospective students away from the school. The ABA basically asserts the school harmed its own reputation by filing the lawsuit and generally being bad. Not surprisingly, the court seems to be siding with the ABA on this one, especially at the preliminary injunction stage where the burden of proof is so high on a petitioner.

Prospective Right to Know

The court noted that the preliminary injunction sought to force the ABA to "retract truthful information" related to the school's accreditation, which prospective students surely would want to know. The school claimed that the ABA decision about their accreditation was not final, and thus should not have been publicly published. However, as the ABA stated and the court further explained, the ABA is not a court of law, the rules do not provide for an appeal of the ABA Council's decision, and the decision regarding accreditation does not need to be appealed through the courts before becoming "public."

Given the high cost of law school, prospective students are taking a big risk by attending even provisionally accredited schools. It can provide quite a bit of peace of mind for students to know that their law school is accredited and isn't at risk of losing that accreditation. Cooley's first time bar passage rate for last year was 61%, and overall was 41%. Only about 30% of their 2016 graduates are employed full time in jobs that require bar passage. Those numbers are not good.

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